Drink More, Live Longer

In a reversal of conventional wisdom, it now appears that drinkers may live longer than teetotalers.

It’s not exactly official, but a paper in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research certainly points us in that direction. A study of slightly over 1800 subjects between 55 and 65 years of age was followed for 20 years, and the results are remarkable. Moderate drinkers (those who consumed between one and three drinks per day) had the lowest mortality rates, followed by heavy drinkers. Those who abstained from alcohol died earliest of all, and in greater numbers.

Of course, there are wild cards galore. The folks at Alcoholics Anonymous would contend that abstainers are frequently former heavy drinkers, who have already damaged their health and are thus likely to die early. Critics of the study would probably say that most of the heavy drinkers were already dead before they turned 55. Economic status also plays a role. Drinking is expensive, and, contrary to stereotypes,  those in lower economic classes tend to forego alcohol as a result.

Even so, this study reinforces what we have known for a long time, and what many people have tried to repress: Moderate consumption of alcohol is good for you. There are health benefits, such as improvements in heart condition, blood pressure and cholesterol. Consuming moderate amounts of alcohol tends to place most people in social situations where they are more convivial and relaxed, and where they tend to form friendships and support systems that are ultimately good for them. No one’s saying that the Baptist church social isn’t fun, but you know what I mean.

In literature, the concept of personification occurs when people invest an inanimate object with human qualities—i.e., money is the root of all evil. During the campaign to institute Prohibition, alcohol was frequently referred to as the “demon rum,” as if teetotalers were Crusaders against the Devil. Today, the argument seems to be simpler: Because some people abuse alcohol, others should not consume it. For those who believe that the invisible hand of Satan guides the fermentation tank or distillation still, no amount of clinical study or rational thought will ever be enough.


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